12 Exciting Careers in Food (With Salary and Job Info)
Many roles are available within the food industry, from entry-level positions that allow for career advancement to more veteran leadership roles. These often require skills like creativity, communication, customer service and knowledge of safety regulations, while some require specialized training to learn about the techniques used on the job. Learning about the different career paths within the food industry and the requirements to pursue them may help you find the right job.
In this article, we explore common careers in food and share the salary, duties and requirements for each.
12 careers in food
Working in the food industry provides a range of employment opportunities, ranging from entry-level preparation roles to positions for experienced managers. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.
Here are some examples of careers in food to pursue:
National average salary: $36,000 per year
Primary duties: Cake decorators specialize in designing, shaping, coloring and styling cakes and other pastries. Some may specialize in a certain type of cake for specific occasions, such as weddings and festive holidays. Cake decorators apply icing, flowers, screen-printed images and other decorative elements to personalize customer orders. They typically work in bakeries, especially in boutique or grocery stores, while some may work from home.
Requirements: Some cake decorators pursue formal training and education through culinary school with a specialization in baking or pastry arts, often in the form of an associate or bachelor's degree. Others may gain training as apprentices or through experience as a home baker. Important skills for cake decorators include artistic skills, especially related to details, color and symmetry, and time management skills for completing projects on time and with high-quality standards.
2. Prep cook
National average salary: $36,785 per year
Primary duties: Prep cooks perform the preparation tasks that help higher-level chefs and cooks quickly complete meals. They wash and chop produce, cut and prepare meat and organize other ingredients. Prep cooks can work in many kitchen settings, including in high-end or family restaurants, chain restaurants and diners.
Requirements: Many prep cook positions don't require formal training or education. These positions are typically entry-level jobs that provide on-the-job training, but some prep cooks choose to attend culinary school.
Read more: Learn About Being a Prep Cook
National average salary: $41,285 per year
Primary duties: Butchers specialize in cutting meat, fish and poultry to provide customers with prime cuts, make sausages and cure meats. They may also assist in inspecting deliveries, prepping and storing products, filling custom orders and providing customers with recommendations. They often work in local butcher shops, delis, grocery stores or boutique stores like a salumeria, which is a meat shop that specializes in cured meats and sausages. It's also possible for them to work in food production and industrial settings, such as meatpacking plants.
Requirements: Many jobs for butchers don't require a formal education, and it's possible to pursue this career with a high school diploma or GED. Many of them complete a butchering apprenticeship or take entry-level positions that offer on-the-job training.
Read more: How To Become a Butcher
4. Pastry cook
National average salary: $42,959 per year
Primary duties: A pastry cook, also known as a pastry chef, specializes in creating both sweet and savory pastries, bread, cakes, pies and other baked goods. They typically focus more on creating desserts than savory dishes. They often work in hotels and resorts, boutique bakeries, bakery departments of grocers and restaurants or cafes.
Requirements: Pastry cooks typically pursue an associate or bachelor's degree in culinary arts, often with a specialty in pastry arts. Some may gain experience through apprenticeships, working as home bakers or completing baking classes on their own that allow them to develop their basic skills and secure entry-level employment.
Read more: Learn About Being a Pastry Chef
National average salary: $47,882 per year
Primary duties: Bakers create and follow recipes to make both sweet and savory pastries, cakes, pies, bread and other baked goods. They apply math skills and attention to detail as they measure and mix ingredients and use time management skills when completing each step of a recipe to ensure items are high quality. They can work in a wide variety of food preparation settings, including boutique bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, resorts, schools and universities. Some may perform customer service responsibilities, such as taking orders and completing transactions for customers.
Requirements: Many bakers pursue formal education and training in pastry arts and cooking science from trade or technical schools that offer these programs. Some earn an associate or bachelor's degree, while others complete practical training in the form of apprenticeships. Some bakers may gain years of experience in a home kitchen or take classes on their own.
6. Line cook
National average salary: $49,116 per year
Primary duties: Line cooks assist sous chefs, chefs and cooks in prepping ingredients and ensuring all dishes are consistently high quality. They may produce base elements of a recipe in large quantities for chefs to use in individual orders and help plate recipes to the restaurant's standards and customer specifications. Line cooks use a variety of basic techniques and time management, active listening and organization skills to assist chefs and other kitchen personnel create dishes. They can work in many restaurant settings, including fine dining establishments and chain restaurants.
Requirements: Many line cooks pursue formal culinary training and education in the form of two- or four-year degrees from a technical school. Those with informal training may secure employment with a high school diploma or GED.
National average salary: $56,204 per year
Primary duties: Also called a wine steward, a sommelier provides personalized wine recommendations to dining guests based on their preferences, the food they're eating and other relevant factors. They specialize in understanding how different wines are made and aged, which types and ages are best for certain cuisines and which flavor profiles pair with certain foods, spices and textures. They also collaborate with restaurant owners and managers to create a wine list. They use their customer service skills to communicate with guests and provide the exact wine they want to have.
Requirements: Many employers prefer sommeliers to have formal training and certifications through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, International Sommelier Guild or the Court of Master Sommeliers. Completing these programs requires a working knowledge of wine and pairings. Many programs end with a series of examinations that include a taste test, theoretical exam and practical service exam. Participants earn a certificate for successful completion. Candidates may consider working as a server, bartender or another front-of-house restaurant job to build customer service skills or at a vineyard to learn about wine.
National average salary: $56,252 per year
Primary duties: Restaurant managers oversee all employees at a restaurant, including kitchen personnel and waitstaff, in chain restaurants, fine dining establishments and hotels. They frequently collaborate with people in the restaurant to plan menus, select daily specials and develop a wine and spirits list. Restaurant managers are also responsible for ensuring all restaurant staff abides by food safety rules and prepare quality meals, and ensure that patrons enjoy their dining experience. Restaurant managers create schedules, complete inventory and manage the restaurant's budget.
Requirements: Some paths for this role include higher education, often in the form of an associate or bachelor's degree in business management, hospitality or another related discipline, and years of experience advancing in the restaurant industry. Another path includes beginning in an entry-level position, advancing through various roles and gaining enough experience to become a restaurant manager. Other paths include a mixture of advanced experience and specialized restaurant manager training programs.
Read more: Learn About Being a Restaurant Manager
9. Sous chef
National average salary: $57,656 per year
Primary duties: A sous chef, which means under chef in French, is often known as the second chef because they assist the head chef in overseeing other kitchen team members as they prep, cook and plate a variety of dishes. They may also contribute to preparation and cooking duties and special meal selection and menu planning. They use their leadership skills to ensure kitchen staff abides by food safety laws, attention to detail to check that all meals pass the restaurant's quality standards and creative thinking skills to create unique dishes and solve issues in the kitchen.
Requirements: Sous chef positions typically require a formal education in culinary arts and years of experience working in the kitchen. Sous chefs typically begin their culinary careers as line cooks and work their way up by completing additional training, specializing in a type of cuisine and taking on leadership positions as they advance.
Read more: Learn About Being a Sous Chef
10. Executive chef
National average salary: $74,955 per year
Primary duties: Also known as a chef manager or head chef, an executive chef is a leader in the kitchen who ensures all meals are made to the highest quality standards. Executive chefs use problem-solving skills to address any issues in the kitchen, time management and organization to keep the kitchen and staff safe and efficient while preparing meals and attention to detail to assist with quality control. They can work in a wide variety of settings, including diners, fine dining restaurants, hotels, resorts and private residences.
Requirements: Becoming an executive chef often requires formal education and training in the culinary arts. Many employers prefer them to be specialized in a type of cuisine and have a diverse portfolio of recipes and ideas. They also look for candidates with several years of relevant experience, especially in leadership roles in the kitchen.
Read more: Learn About Being an Executive Chef
11. Sushi chef
National average salary: $81,566 per year
Primary duties: A sushi chef specializes in creating both traditional and unique sushi dishes, like maki, handrolls, nigiri and sashimi. They have expertise in inspecting and combining ingredients like raw and cooked fish, meat, vinegar rice and nori and using cutting techniques to create high-quality dishes. They use attention to detail and customer service while working in sushi restaurants.
Requirements: Some culinary training programs offer coursework in sushi techniques, but many sushi chefs complete apprenticeships that offer practical experience. Many employers may require this initial training, especially at fine dining establishments.
12. Banquet cook
National average salary: $93,646 per year
Primary duties: Banquet cooks help serve and create large orders of food for special occasions, such as weddings, parties, receptions and other events. They also set up food displays. They typically work in banquet and reception halls, at hotels and resorts and with companies that offer catering services on location.
Requirements: Depending on the needs of the employer, some candidates may secure employment without specialized education. Many employers do prefer candidates to have an associate degree in culinary arts.
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